Review of The Wronged Man Directed by Tom Mcloughlin rating *** 1/2
I recently went to Blockbuster and walked out with two movies. The first was Hot Tub Time Machine. The second was a movie I just happened to see on the shelf titled The Wronged Man. Now I can’t defend my choice of Hot Tub Time Machine. It looked like it might be funny. It had John Cusack. It had a picture of a scantily clad woman on the DVD cover. So how bad could it be? Okay, it was bad. It was beyond bad. It was a one line joke that wouldn’t have made it as a SNL skit.
So that brings me to the second movie. Anyone who spends any time on this site will know that I am a fan of wrongful conviction stories. I have reviewed countless books, films, and documentaries covering this topic. Dateline and 48 Hours seem to have a wrongful conviction story on just about every week, especially recently. I wrote about Dateline’s The Mystery on Rock Hill a few weeks ago. They followed that up with two more stories Circle of Friends and The House on Murder Mountain. Both are compelling stories. But I have been covering so many wrongful conviction stories I didn’t want to seem like that was the theme of this blog. The Circle of Friends story really got me ticked off at our justice system. In that story the police threatened, intimidated, and lied to two young men, convincing them to implicate their friend who they knew was innocent. The next day they recanted their statements, but it was too late. The poor kid is still in prison. But what really ticked me off is that the prosecutor in the case was so adamant that he was right that he charged the two men and one woman, all who testified for the defense, with perjury. So not only can’t this prosecutor admit that he screwed up, he had to damage three more people to prove his point. What a clown.
But the problems with our justice system work the other way as well. 48 Hours just aired a Solve My Mystery show that clearly implicated one individual as the one responsible for the murder. This individual was involved in his wife’s disappearance. He obviously killed the woman in the story. He was involved in the killing and dismembering of his neighbor. In that incident, he was charged with murder. He testified that it was self defense and the jury acquitted him in about three hours of deliberation. Now you tell me that our justice system works.
Now back to The Wronged Man. The film involves the true story of Calvin Willis, who spent twenty years in prison for a rape he did not commit. the focus of the film is on Calvin, played by Mahershalalhashbaz Ali, and Prissy Gregory, played by Julia Ormond. Prissy was a paralegal who spent ten-plus years fighting for Calvin’s freedom.
This was a Lifetime channel made for TV movie. It was based on a magazine article, so it’s a little thin on back story and character development. You never see the injustices that led to the wrongful conviction. they are only hinted at. Instead, the film traces the many attempts and failures of Prissy to free Calvin.
Calvin owes his freedom to DNA testing. Fortunately, the police hadn’t thrown away the evidence. It may be hard to believe, but there are individuals who would destroy evidence before allowing that evidence to be used to prove them wrong. Even with the DNA evidence the prosecutor in Calvin’s case claimed that it didn’t mean he was innocent. Give me a break.
The two primary actors in this film do a commendable job. It’s a well told story whose theme is how one individual can and did make a difference. If there weren’t people demanding DNA testing, you can guarantee that the state of Louisiana would not undertake the testing on their own.
The film ends with a few seconds of the real Calvin and Prissy. Unfortunately, the DVD did not contain anything on the actual case. The film also hinted that Calvin did not receive any compensation from the state of Louisiana for wrongfully imprisoning him for twenty years.
We have murderers getting off free or making plea deals where they serve five year sentences. Then we have people caught growing pot who spend decades in prison. Petty criminals who are serving life terms because of the three strikes rule. As long as these things continue to happen I’ll continue to write about them. And if you find yourself at Blockbuster looking for something to rent. Stay away from the Hot Tub Time Machine and pick up a copy of The Wronged Man.